KELA Kapkora Sil Bolkin, to give him his full handle, consistently produces the goods whenever he sits down to write.
Taking his subject matter from everyday life, he offers keen insights into PNG society and always comes up with stories that are gutsy and newsworthy.
Sil’s been published in all four annual Anthologies of the best PNG writing and now, for the first time, he’s added the esteemed Crocodile Prize to his portfolio.
The PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Award for Essays and Journalism comes with a trophy and a cash prize of K5,000.
It’s not a bad birthday present – Sil, born in Kundiawa, turns 41 on Friday.
At present he’s living in Canberra while he studies for a Masters degree in Public Policy at the Australian National University. Previously his day job was as policy and planning coordinator at the PNG National AIDS Council Secretariat.
Sil enunciates his main interests as strategic public management, cultural conservation and writing.
In his high school days, he read short stories and novels by Papua New Guinean authors like Ignatius Kilage, Vincent Eri and Russell Soaba and other writers like Chinua Achebe.
“That’s where I got the inspiration to one day become an author,” he told me.
This ambition was realised last year when he published his first book, The Flight of Galkope, a highly rated entry in this year’s inaugural Ok Tedi Mining Book of the Year award to be announced on Friday.
I asked Sil what stimulated him to write his winning entry (the long title will give you a good sense of the subject matter, Papua New Guinea as a banana republic: Chinese Li Wu suborns officials.
“I hate corruption, coercion, injustice, lies, trampling on the downtrodden,” Sil replied.
“I was at the scene when the melee happened, so I decided to write and record what I saw and tell the rest of Papua New Guinea that we could be hurt by foreigners or powerful people and our own police force will not come to our aid.
“Everybody at that scene knew it was fishy but were too timid to yell or shout for justice at the police and Chinese.”
See what I was saying about subject matter from everyday life?
The judges’ citation
Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin has been a consistent and popular writer ever since the Crocodile Prize began. He capped this off in 2013 with the publication of his long-awaited book, The Flight of Galkope.
He never ceases to surprise with the range of topics he addresses in his essays.
In this he follows the classic style of the great essayists; his pieces are informative, topical, often funny or quirky and, very importantly, have a personal touch.
He also writes in a style that readers are beginning to recognise as coming from the Simbu School of Writing.
This year he provided another thought-provoking crop; this time topped by his revealing story about the complicity between Asian businesses and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary in Port Moresby - Papua New Guinea as a banana republic: Chinese Li Wu suborns officials.
These days’ readers look forward to the next Bolkin piece and we hope he continues to write for many years to come.
“The Crocodile Prize has molded me and shaped my maturity as a writer,” said Sil. “I have improved a lot since I first wrote.
“And it’s a nice feeling when someone in the streets of Port Moresby taps me on the shoulder or shoots me an email saying that they’ve read one of my articles and liked it.“
And he has some sound advice for budding prize-winning writers.
“If anybody wishes to be a writer, they have to write and contribute to the Croc Prize at a constant pace.
“Two or three consecutive years of writing can change one’s writing ability completely and it happened to me.
“Thank you to the two buttresses of the PNG Attitude, Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick, for giving birth to the idea.”
Sil also thanked the PNG Chambers of Mines and Petroleum for its sponsorship.
“Competition stirs up the adrenaline in us and brings out the best. The sponsorship gives us an incentive to write and importantly we learn a lot about the art of writing in the process.
“I also acknowledge the other essayists for their fine art of writing and adeptness.”
If you want to read some of Sil’s writing that I found particularly captivating, here are a few suggestions:
Chewing testes while waiting for the rest rooms (12 October 2011)
Guns and Viagra at the Wutung border (20 May 2012)
Parochial politics leads to serious problems at the poll (12 July 2012)
Wahgi Hellcats - a rock band born before its time (9 November 2012)
Famous Kone Tigers oval is now a sex workers’ den (23 January 2013)
Can extractive industry transparency help save PNG (30 July 2013)
The gullible one-day millionaires of Simbu (17 September 2013)
Lazy & naïve young men sweep away fine traditional leaders (18 November 2013)
The cunning Simbu human lumbricus terrestris: A new culture (7 April 2014)
Illegal cartels make millions through Port Moresby buai ban (28 July 2014)